Theories of Value and how to measure Value

I’m profoundly curious about what makes things in our world valuable.

According to philosopher Immanuel Kant, there are generally two “worlds” we can speak of, that is, the external world of human experiences (Kant calls this the phenomenal world); contrastingly, there is also the noumenal world, or “things in themselves,” or intelligible world. Side note: there can certainly be other “worlds,” as well as other types of knowledge besides empirical knowledge and noumenal knowledge.

I want to strictly talk about the external world right now – the noumenal world is too vast and difficult for me to comprehend in a short blog post – and surely, Kant admits himself, is rather difficult if not impossible to discern with pure reason.

The external world is what we know as empirical reality. This is where science lives. Physics – not metaphysics – can be proven, experimented with, and discerned with data. Only once you have mastered physics, can you study beyond physics – the metaphysics – as Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle noted.

So how do we describe ‘value’ in this external world of human experiences?

Let’s talk for example the famous water-diamond paradox of value. Let’s assume a 500-ml bottle of water and a 24-karat diamond.

In the rich western world, we have mutually agreed that diamonds have high value. (Well perhaps mutually agreed-upon may be the wrong language – I certainly wouldn’t want to discredit decades of savvy marketing and psychological warfare in convincing the general population of the value of this rock). However, as a general population, it would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t recognize the value of a diamond – if not for personally valuing it, then recognizing its value on the ‘market’ IE selling it to someone else for a quick buck.

Now, in the market economy, we can objectively declare this 24-karat diamond to be more ‘valuable’ than a 500-ml bottle of water. Yet, some context can be easily applied here: what if you are planning a trip to the Sahara desert, a solo trek across the dunes? I would be shocked if you packed a bag of diamonds rather than several bottles of water. A dehydrated, stranded individual in the desert would value that bottle of water as equivalent to life – surely that is priceless.

This scenario we’ve painted suggests that value, at least to some degree, requires context. And I would suggest precisely this. But my frustration here is that if value requires context, then how do we discern between objective value and contextual value?

In economics, intrinsic value is considered objectively measurable – if you were, say, wanting to measure the intrinsic value of Microsoft stock, you could technically calculate its net present value by using historical growth and dividend data, inflation rates, interest rates, etc. Of course, there are still some certain assumptions you might have to make, such as constant growth vs linear growth vs. exponential growth, and the assumption of no Black Swan events in the near future (like the panorama 19…) I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of it but in one of my calculations (purposely in the plural, because there are other calculations), Microsoft stock should range from roughly $100-180 based on intrinsic value, with a best-case scenario of $250. As of October 10th, 2021, Microsoft stock is trading at $300. Why?

That’s because the stock market is not strictly a mathematical game – it is a war ground for financial chaos, psychological warfare, and profound uncertainty. When sentiment is confident, and people are overzealous to make money, they buy and prices go up. When things look grim, and blood is on the streets, the stock markets will bleed red. The reason I mention the stock market is because I want to emphasise that intrinsic objective value is not the only way we value things – humans are not strictly rational objectively measuring deciding agents.

So now we have given some criteria on value. How we value things depends on context, as the water-diamond paradox shows. A physical polaroid picture of your dog becomes much more valuable to you, personally, when your best friend passes away. That picture becomes astronomically more valuable when all your digital pictures of them disappear, and that polaroid is the last remaining.

The stock market example showed us that value isn’t just objectively measured – yes, we do have fancy theorems for measuring objective value with math, but not everyone adheres to it, and I would suggest most people don’t even know compeltely how these objective measurable theories work (myself included) if they even know that they exist. This extra value away from the intrinsically measured value in Microsoft stock is extrinsic, or, I will call irrational/hopeful value. People don’t buy Microsoft stock at $300 without hoping, mostly irrationally, that it’s worth more than $300.

  1. Contextual value
  2. Objective/Intrinsic Value
  3. Extrinsic/Hopeful Value

Now, bear with me, because this is where things get a little abstract and confusing. Philosophers have their own definition of intrinsic value, and it is loosely defined as “things in themselves as a final end.” Everything else that isn’t a final end, as in a means to an end, is not intrinsically valuable.

Things for their own sake are what we should consider valuable. This usually excludes things like money and materialism. Instead, it includes abstract ends: happiness, beauty, beatitude, truth, love, the sublime, friendship, peace.
In the external world, it becomes incredibly hard to describe to one another why we value things. Why is this friendship valuable? Why is a rising/setting sun beautiful? Who dictates these values? And how do we go about measuring them? It might be a futile endeavour to do so, but that result is unsatisfying to the economist who wants to measure decision making.

Ultimately I don’t know the answers to all these questions; there are so many different theories of value, and I only proposed a primer on a few. What I do want to suggest, if you ended up reading this far, is to start questioning how you personally value things in your human experience. If we being to ask ourselves why we do the things we do, and what ultimate good, or end, that we consider intrinsically valuable according to the philosophers, then maybe we can start figuring out what type of life we want to live.

What my Cold taught me about [my] Gods

What my Cold taught me about [my] Gods

Unfortunately, I have not been able to spend 10 hours in the library every day for the past 3 days as I’ve been suffering from a cold and bedridden in my dorm room – ordering in food and self-isolating from my friends on the off-chance that I have the Canon-19. It’s nothing serious and I’m taking the important precautions. But oh, how the Cambridge libraries call for my return. Hopefully it will be swift. But here is a blog post in the meanwhile.

Palmar grasp reflex refers to the primitive instinct found in infant humans and most primates. It refers to when we reflexively grasp onto objects in our hands – we naturally flex our fingers to hold on, holding on to life, for hope someone is there to take care of us.

For those fortunate enough to have parents be present in their childhood, you know what it feels like to be sick as a kid: your mother tucks you in, feeds you some medicine you can’t even pronounce the names of, and nurses you back to health. I distinctly remember my mother feeding me this steaming hot ginger chicken soup, an old Chinese traditional remedy, that made me sweat away the poisons of the illness. At the very least, it acted as a placebo, and I drank away expecting it to cure me.

As a child, anytime we ran into troubles, from a small (or large) scrape on the knee from playing on the playground, to doing your math homework, and yes, when you get a cold, we would naturally go to our parents. They would know what to do. 

If you grew up in a non-religious household (and maybe even in a religious household), you might share the same unconscious realization as a kid: our parents are Gods.

Somehow, someway, my mother would solve any problem that I didn’t know how to solve nor had the experience yet to tackle. She knew more than me. She was bigger, stronger, smarter, and wiser. She knew how to make ginger soup! She was unstoppable.

I had a natural, and unconscious, dependency. It was ingrained in my mind to call my mother in dire situations. I have vivid memories practicing reciting her phone number, 604-xxx-xxxx like a little song, dating back to when I was 5. 

Then university came along. Suddenly I went from seeing my mother every day to the occasional text. I had to be reminded of this drastic lifestyle shift again last month when I returned to my studies, after being home for over a year due to the panorama.

However, although the persona you created that your parents can do anything is an unconscious manifestation, eventually, you have to consciously come to the realization that your parents are not Gods, and that they do not have the answer nor guidance for every path you want to take. If I wanted to go to school in the states, I had to do my own research, self-study for the SAT and AP exams, following in the footsteps of others I’ve seen. A career in law, academia, finance? Or perhaps traveling the world, to countries and cities they’ve never even heard of? Thankfully we have Google, but still, these are daunting, individual ventures.

The realization that my mother doesn’t have the answer to everything is a sudden disappointment, but a necessary one to forge my own path where the onus lies on me.

Certainly, there were times I was internally frustrated with my parents for not having the answers I so desperately wanted from them to help guide me in my high school studies, to university life, to my chronic health issues. But I think I’ve largely come to terms with them, or at the very least, I’m aware of their origin and irrationality. The struggles and frustrations and uncertainties of my life are vastly different from that of my mother’s, and although I can always depend on her to support me with love. So maybe my mother can’t teach me how to play Scar in the Lion King, but she may have other experiences or stories I can learn from. She isn’t a God who knows how to solve all my problems. I don’t believe in Gods. 

My mother is not a God – she’s much cooler, because she can make chicken ginger soup.

Like most of my blog posts, this one is inspired by my studies in philosophy, and particularly of a podcast by Stephen West “Philosophize This” on Kant, Episode 7.

A new imposter syndrome journey

I am so deeply afraid of imposter syndrome.

It started when I was 15 and was appointed as the new concertmaster of my high school’s strings orchestra over a senior, I genuinely believed she was better than me at violin, but I understood the rationale of my teacher’s choice as I would assume the position for the next three years. I felt like an imposter, because the concert master before me had been playing violin for nearly as long as I’d been alive, and I had only started in my teenage years. He was someone I looked up to greatly as an inspiration, a quite literal genius who would go on to UPENN and study medicine at Mayo Clinic.

In my senior year of high school I got the role of Scar in our production of Lion King. I felt like a fraud. I fought constantly with my director, I had never seen a teacher get so frustrated with me. I was used to being the golden student.

In university, I am known as the magician. I was invited to and performed multiple stage shows. Again, I felt like an imposter. I’m not nearly as good as the magicians I aspire to be like, and I fear that some day, another magician will see my stage performance and call me out for using simple and mainstream tricks.

(delayed flight by two days) today I’ll be taking a plane and leaving my home city for the first time since 2019 to spend a semester abroad at Cambridge University.

I have an essay due on my first supervision at Cambridge, which are the weekly 1-on-1 tutorial sessions you take at Cambridge for the course you are s studying. The essay is about intuition and Kant’s explanations of reality. There’s no hiding in a class where you are the only student.


But. Here’s the weird thing. I haven’t had this imposter syndrome feeling since 2019 before I had to come home. I always have imposter syndrome when I’m doing awesome things: when I’m performing violin solos, giving monologues as Scar, and performing magic to a full auditorium back at Villanova. “I shouldn’t be here,” I think to myself, right before I stand in front of hundreds of people and perform a magic trick for the first time.

People often get this imposter syndrome feeling when they are uncomfortable.  But is it specifically those situations where you go out of your comfort zone that you grow and do amazing things. These are the moments I need to relish and enjoy. This is what it feels like to feel alive.

I want to feel uncomfortable. I want to do great things again. I genuinely feel like I lost the past two years of my life. The past two years have been god awful. I think that narrative has been shared with a lot of people. But I don’t want this to be a pity story

The next two years will be different. I can only hope it will be. Today I am stepping out of my comfort zone, away from my family for the first time in two years, away from the couch I called home. A new country, a new imposter syndrome journey at Cambridge… More life.

Proud to be Asian-American

I am Unapologetically Asian

In 2020 I was constantly asking myself how I could be an ally for BIPOC and the BLM movement
I started with little things. The basics of social media: share, like, and interact with posts. That moved to taking a class on the discussion of race and reaching out to my Black friends and peers just to check-in. I wanted to let them know that at the very least, I was listening. Listening to Black voices through videos, articles, books, essays, and research. At the end of the semester, I decided to focus two thesis papers from my history economics course and my philosophy course on the history of slavery and equality to try and convey these injustices. I still have a lot to learn.

Personally. I’ve never particularly felt that my ethnicity would pose a danger to myself and my family. It was, for the longest time, something I could not truly fathom, a fear that is experienced by many other minorities. Sure, I heard the regular scheduled xenophobic comments here and there, like open your eyes, or what are you eating it smells so bad, and the occasional chink. But I never felt like my skin color would make my life more dangerous because I live in a town that is quite literally greater than 50% comprised of Asians.

On March 10, 2020, we officially entered into a global pandemic

I knew the flood of racist comments was coming. We would be the scapegoat; and bigots around the world now had an opportunity, banded together, to unleash their racism.

“The China virus”

It was our fault. How dare we? Go home. We are not welcome

Racist people can’t even be racist properly. Non-Chinese Asians, to my understanding, were similarly attacked. People don’t care if you’ve never even been to China. If you look Asian, you were the problem.
I remember in my race class explaining the history of why China (and other parts of Asia) eat dogs. China as a country has a very poor history. When you have 1.4 billion people to feed, and poverty running rampant, the breadth of what is considered “edible” expands. China’s poor history is how we can trace a lot of my culture’s cuisine: stinky tofu, hocks feet, chicken feet, cow intestines are all staples of Chinese cuisine. It took me no more than a few minutes to explain this but it allowed my peers to sympathize with my culture. They listened.
The past few months I am utterly shocked and irat

The deep-rooted racism towards Asians is peering out as we have become scapegoats for current events
I started doing research. Readings and articles and videos have shown the increasing PHYSICAL assault and VIOLENCE that Asians are experiencing. I am sick to my stomach seeing people assault, rob and attack my people. A video of an elderly Chinese man being pushed to the side of the road made me want to hurl. The cries of a Chinese grandmother being robbed and assaulted made me feel so deeply sick. People with the same Chinese surname as me, appearing on the news, being assaulted and brutally attacked. Today, I saw on the news of another Asian owned-store being robbed. A 46-year-old good samaritan Yong Zheng saw the robbery, and along with other pedestrians, tried to chase the robbers. Zheng saw a crime and tried to stop it. He was stabbed four times and died upon arrival at NYU Hospital.
I didn’t realize until recently how bad it’s been. And then I looked at my own history and realized that I’ve felt this unease first hand this past year.

A few weeks ago I shared on Instagram the public racist comments of three random people calling me a chink and other racist comments. In 2020 I also experienced physical violence because of my race. In Vancouver, where Asian culture is such a prominent aspect of our city, Asian hate crimes have increased by over 700% in 2020. It is only getting worse.

So what can we do?

I don’t know

I am still trying to figure out how these systemic issues can be solved. But like my devotion to better study BLM and Black history in North America, I believe it is education and awareness, and sympathy, that we need to spread
And so I am going to make a promise to better understand my own history and the history of Asians.


But please. A simple thing you can do is watch out and protect us. Be an ally and stand with us and hear our voices. We are not just a model minority. We feel the same pain as other POC for not having the systemic privileges of being born white.

I watched a report that there was this Black family that patrolled around the neighborhood in Compton during the day to just be a watchful eye for violence against POC. This warmed my heart and I felt the love and allyship being reciprocated.

I just want to know that we have allies. I know we do. And in an unprecedented time, community and friendship and family and allyship are more important than ever. It’s time for everyone else to open their eyes as well to see that we are being attacked and discriminated against.. I ask that you spend just as much time discussing these injustices and actively fighting against systemic racism as you do talking about how much you love KBBQ, Sushi, Bubble Tea, and Dim Sum.
Please continue to Listen.

Please continue to watch out for your fellow Asian friends.


For the leading source of Asian American News, follow @NextShark on Instagram. Please be advised some of the posts may be disturbing for audiences.

For learning more about Asian-American culture, WongFu productions on YouTube is a household name for producing very high-quality entertainment videos, dramas, comedy, rom-com, and other great skits, even having a movie released on Netflix. I highly recommend their short rom-com series “What is a Yappie?” free on YouTube.

This post is not to take away from the suffering from other communities around the world. Right wow more than ever we need to unite through our humanity

I will try to continue to post resources and links on my social media on how you can stay up to date on Asian-(North)American news.

Like, share, comment, repost. Our voices need to be heard.

Much love,


Buying Bitcoin in 2014

Everyone wishes they bought Bitcoin or got in on the GME hype or invested in [insert exponential growth investment]
I remember back in 2014 was when I first heard about Bitcoin and was offered it as payment. I’d be a multimillionaire today if I had accepted it.
But I always think that getting in on these hype investments is synonymous to winning the lottery ticket. A lot of luck is involved. (I will give mad props though to early adopters who researched fundamentals)
But anyways
There is a lot of research that shows people who win the lottery don’t have significant long term changes in happiness.
Here are likely a few reasons for this
1) winning the lottery means you became wealthy not off meritocracy but off luck. This is not a great feeling
2) the skills, hard work and experience of building wealth is skipped. Your wealth changed but you didn’t gain any new skills or knowledge
3) going from 1 to 100 in wealth is difficult to manage. We are bad at step-ladder increments as opposed to linear. IE we flinch at initial hot water, but can slowly increase the showers heat as we slowly adapt to new temperature
I ocassionaly think about these things to make myself feel better for not accepting a few hundred Bitcoins back in 2014
Does anyone know what the next Max Lotto prize pool is?

free will

I do not believe, in general, that people do acts of evil for the sake of evil (there are exceptions.) There are always certain scenarios or predicaments that humans are put into, and, due to our imperfections, we may find imperfect solutions.
Humanity is inflicted with this imperfection of free will, we are then prone to sin.
But since sin is a human afliction, then our understanding of evil and good is also a human fabrication, so we must discern between these fine lines with human distinction.
Right and wrong are inherently clouded in ambiguity–furthermore, we are then expected to discern between right and wrong and somehow make the proper choices, despite our own shortcomings.
Even if God were to give us the truth, IE, thou shall not kill or steal, is there not certain predicaments in humanity where doing so would be justified? Is the man who steals bread to feed his family evil? To the baker, yes; to the family, he is a hero; to a bystander, we feel ambivalent. Here the man may understand his wrongdoing but justifies it.
Instead, we may look towards society: is society not evil in putting this man in such a predicament where his imperfection leads him to such an imperfect solution? I am eager to find these Truths, and furthermore eager to right future wrongs.

What is Love?

What is Love?
To Nietzsche, Love is Envy
The person you love is the person you envy
You strive to be a better person out of love; the person you love has the qualities and traits you admire.
Envy, in the context of love, is meant to bring an aspirational ideal and foster a relationship of striving. You make each other better. You want to become a better person for the sake of your lover.
But envy and jealously can bring on issues such as obsession or resentment, to the point where love turns destructive. Instead, the desire to become a better person transforms into an ugly desire to destroy the other person, bringing them down to one’s own level, or placing them on an unreachable pedestal as you fawn over them.
To Aristophanes, Love completes you
Before humans looked like the way we look now, we were instead these round blobs with two heads, four arms, four legs. We rolled around the Earth and, through our pride, sought power, and sought to overtake the Gods.
Zeus saw the humans’ lack of humility and struck us with his lightning, separating every human blob in half.
A single head. Two arms. Two legs.
Love is seeking, quite literally, your other half. I suppose the ancient Greek philosophers knew about this cliche far before modern rom-com writers.
Yet, this mentality of finding a lover to “complete” you make us fall into a disastrous trap of dependability.
When finding a Lover becomes your sole responsibility and goal in life, you start to lose sight of other things that are valuable that make life fulfilling. Most importantly, you forget the most powerful love, which is self-love. How can you expect love from someone else if you do not love yourself?
If you do not love yourself, and you seek this lack of self-love from someone else to complete you, you will fall into a cycle of lacking.
There is power in independence. There is humility in being single.
A relationship will not necessarily “complete” you. Succumbing to this ideal not only disrespects your individuality but also creates a mentality of dependability.
A true, powerful and sustainable relationship, are two independently complex individuals (as all individuals are equally uniquely complex) coming together to form a stronger bond that is greater than the sum of its parts. A Lover should not make you “whole”. A lover should embellish who you already are as an individual.
To Diotima, Love is Spiritual
Love is a ladder – different steps we must take before reaching true Love.
We start with the physical, the weakest form of love yet a very necessary step of the ladder. We must first appreciate the beauty of the physical before we move on to the beauty of the soul and appreciate the emotional aspect of beauty. Here we fall in love with a personality, with virtue, with ideals. Eventually, we move to spirit, and essence, and the very idea of beauty itself. Love becomes much more complex and more abstract. We love one’s essence. We love beauty itself and we see this true form of beauty in those we love. The purest form of love is the love of all beauty, humanity, and God.
As we move up the steps of the ladder, the forms of love at the lower steps become less valuable. When you fall in love with one’s personality, the physical becomes less important. Yet, to move up the ladder means we must move through a sequential guide, but love knows no bounds and should not be restrained by some ladder of steps.
What is Love?
I believe Love continues to elude us because there are no true criteria.
Love knows no bounds.
Love is patient. Love is kind
Love is unconditional. But, perhaps it should be conditional.
Love is Envy. Love completes us. And love is spiritual.
To Love is to Live.

boiling a frog in toxic water

Some people are just looking for drama

These people are toxic

If you put a frog in boiling hot water, he will jump out immediately.

If you put a frog in room temperature water and slowly boil the water, the frog will adapt to the heat and eventually bathe in the water in its own death.

If you spend too much time with people who are always seeking out hostile environments, you will soon become numb to this behavior. Before you know it, you will surround yourself with toxic friends.

It is important to call out people for the behavior you do not approve of, even if hidden under the veil of a “joke”

It is always better to make an uncomfortable decision so you can avoid disastrous situations.

The paradox of “Normal”

Last week I got a haircut because I wanted to look normal again.

I had been growing out my hair for nearly 6-months, as I had largely been confined in my home since the world decided to roll over and disturb the peace of what many of us considered “normal.”

And, that same week, I decided to pick up a book and start reading again. A book about humanity now sits by my nightstand, and a book about Love sits next to my laptop desktop.

I then had a much-needed reunion with some of my best friends from high school – our bi-annual reunion, as I “normally” spend 10 months of the year outside of Canada. Yet, during high school, I would spend 8-hours a day with these people.

Because, last year this time, what was considered normal to me was reading one book a week, getting my hair cut every 3-weeks, traveling the world, performing magic, and writing daily.

I want my life to go back to “Normal.”

But for the past 6-months, while I grew out my hair, I had to adjust to a new type of normal as I battled my health concerns and not to mention all things considered with how the rest of 2020 has been going.

And so, while I progress towards my past “normal” life, what I’ve begun to realize is that the true paradox is assuming that “normal” exists in the first place.

When I was 14, “normal” meant waking up at 4:30 AM to train basketball for 2 hours with at the time my best friend, before going to class, followed by 2 hours of musical theatre rehearsal, followed by basketball team practice, and getting home at 9 PM to self-study four AP courses. In university, “normal” meant waking up 5-minutes before classes started and stumbling over to the business building while somehow managing to grab an ice-coffee so I could stay awake before my afternoon nap.

I have gone through phases where “normal” meant I felt fat. To phases where I was used to having 6-pack abs. To phases where physical fitness wasn’t even on my agenda.

For the past 6-months, “normal” meant being quarantined at home like a couch potato and suffering as I thought about how much life I was missing out on. I wanted to see the world. Two years ago, around this time, I had traveled to four different countries in the summer.

My hair was so long that it could cover the entire length of my face down to my chin. So yes. I cut my hair – finally – because I wanted it to go back to normal.

But normal doesn’t exist.

As much as I want to go back to the way things are, it is better that I soon realize that there is nothing I can do to escape reality.

Whether it be the way my physical health adapts, or my mental health, or my relationships with family, friends, with society, it is all a misunderstanding that normal is something we can actually achieve.

My life will never be able to go back to normal because I’ve experienced new things; I’ve seen society change. I evolve – for better or worse – and I’ve made new relationships, forged new contracts with the universe. Each of us has a unique version of what “normal” is.

I miss the days of being 12 and having no worries.

I miss spending time with my best friends.

I miss the “normal” of my childhood friends who I’ve mostly lost contact with.

But I can’t dwell on something that doesn’t exist.

So here’s to forging a life worth living, writing about, thinking about, remembering, missing, and let’s forget the normal life.

I want an extraordinary life.

I want to close with one of my favorite poems, which might shed some light on these paradoxes I am battling.

Paradox – Sarah Kay
When I am inside writing,
all I can think about is how I should be outside living.
When I am outside living,
all I can do is notice all there is to write about.
When I read about love, I think I should be out loving.
When I love, I think I need to read more.
I am stumbling in pursuit of grace,
I hunt patience with a vengeance.
On the mornings when my brother’s tired muscles
held to the pillow, my father used to tell him,
For every moment you aren’t playing basketball,
someone else is on the court practicing.
I spend most of my time wondering
if I should be somewhere else.
So instead, I have learned to shape the words thank you
with my first breath each morning, my last breath every night.
When the last breath comes, at least I will know I was grateful
for all the places I was so sure I was not supposed to be.
All those places I made it to,
all the loves I held, all the words I wrote.
And even if it is just for one moment,
I know I will be exactly where I am supposed to be.

Oil falls 30%, rise of clean energy?

Russia and Saudi Arabia are in an oil-price war, with oil falling to under $30/barrel earlier this week, dropping from highs of $80/barrel just a few years ago

Many people may view the drop in oil price as a win for oil and a loss for clean energy

However, in my view, the instability and volatility of oil and natural gas, in turn, shows that clean energy is the solution: clean, environmentally friendly, stable energy

This bump in oil markets is a win for clean energy.